There are all sorts of reasons why a ferment (like sauerkraut, kimchi or fruit wine) may not ‘work.’

In my estimation, here’s the most common reasons why fermenting fails:

  1. Your room is too hot.  If the temperature is nearing 80 degrees of higher, fermenting can be a challenge.  Spaces like the top of your fridge or above your stove can be a few degrees higher than the rest of your kitchen; be aware of ‘micro climates’ that can be warmer (or cooler) than your average room temperature.
  2. Your room is too cold.  If it’s under the mid-60s fermenting can struggle.
  3. Your water isn’t pure.  Water with chlorine or chloramine will generally kill any good bacteria and prevent fermenting.  Chlorine can be boiled off or evaporated; chloramine can’t.
  4. Your jars aren’t cleaned/ rinsed properly.  If you left soap or disinfectant in the jar, it can prevent fermenting.
  5. Your starter or yeast (if using either) was dead before using.
  6. The liquid or jar was too hot when it mixed with starter or wild yeasts and killed the good bacteria and prevented fermenting.
  7. Your salt is iodized.  I’ve never had this problem but iodized salt can prevent fermenting.
  8. You’ve used too much salt (it can prevent a ferment).
  9. You haven’t waited long enough.  In this case it’s not really a ‘problem’ – but a few days of waiting can make a difference.
  10. You’re expecting a volcano but sometimes it’s more subtle.  Some of my ferments barely bubble or only bubble when stirred.

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